20 of the Best Puerto Rican Side Dishes

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There's a vibrant tale woven into Puerto Rico's dishes. Far from being just sustenance, the food here narrates the island's rich history, a fusion of Taino, Spanish, and African influences. Among this culinary tapestry, the side dishes stand out as the silent heroes complementing Puerto Rican mains. Whether it's the iconic mofongo or the humble arroz con gandules, these Puerto Rican side dishes deserve the spotlight they often share with the island's renowned entrees.

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Not just a matter of taste; these sides are a cultural rite, a healthful indulgence, and a universal tie that binds the Puerto Rican community, as well as those who are lucky enough to try them. Let’s dive into the allure of Puerto Rican side dishes that every food explorer should partake in!

Must-Have Sides to Complement Your Puerto Rican Feast

Eating is a pleasurable experience and each side dish has a delightful story to tell. Here’s a list of Puerto Rican side dishes that not only tantalize the taste buds but invite you to be part of Puerto Rico’s culinary narrative:


Mofongo is the heavyweight champion of Puerto Rican side dishes. It’s comfort food at its best, made of fried green plantains mashed together with salt, garlic, and olive oil. Filled with choices like shrimp, chicken, or beef, each bite is a complex yet harmonious blend of textures and tastes.

Arroz con Gandules

This festive yellow rice dish is a staple during celebrations and family gatherings. Arroz con Gandules is a melody of various flavors, thanks to the trifecta of rice, pigeon peas, and a tenacious helping of sofrito, culminating in a fragrance and flavor that encapsulates the soul of Puerto Rican culinary tradition.


If there’s a contest for the crispy, salty snack, Tostones would be the rightful winner. These twice-fried green plantains are a delightful accompaniment to any meal, offering a satisfying crunch that contrasts beautifully with the softness of many Puerto Rican entrees.

Yuca con Mojo

Soft, but not like a potato, and more about the chew — yuca is Puerto Rico's answer to the starchy side. A garlic drizzle in Yuca con Mojo adds that extra layer of flavor, catapulting this simple root vegetable into a spectacular sidekick to any main course.


Pastelón is a template of delight – layers of sweet plantains, meat (usually beef), and cheese, bound by a fragrant egg and milk mixture, similar to that used in making a quiche. It's a bit sweet, a bit savory, and impossible to resist.


A cherished Puerto Rican Christmas delight, Pasteles are like tropical hot pockets—a savory masa encases a rich meat stew. Boiled to perfection, not steamed, these culinary gems reflect the Caribbean spirit wrapped in banana leaves. 

Ensalada de Papa

Try the vibrant Ensalada de Papa, a Puerto Rican classic bursting with potatoes, red apples, eggs, onion, and a mayo-vinegar dressing. This side dish is perfect for summer grills or hearty meals. 


Alcapurrias are a flavorful fusion of green bananas, taro root, and savory fillings like seasoned ground beef. Crispy on the outside, tender inside—each bite transports you to the vibrant streets of Puerto Rico.


Bacalaitos, the crispy salt codfish fritters of Puerto Rico, offers a delightful seafood twist to your side dish routine. Imagine savory pancake-like bites seasoned with island herbs and spices—each bite a flavorful journey. 


Indulge in the warmth of Maduros, fried sweet plantain slices that offer creamy, tender interior and crisp edges. Whether as a side dish or a snack, these caramelized bites bring a touch of tropical sweetness to your plate. 

Arroz con Habichuelas

Arroz con Habichuelas is a flavorful combination of rice and beans cooked with sofrito and aromatic spices. This traditional staple reflects the heart and soul of Puerto Rican cuisine, offering a comforting and satisfying meal that celebrates the island's rich heritage. 

Papas Rellenas

Imagine biting into a crispy, golden exterior to reveal a savory surprise of seasoned ground beef nestled within a creamy potato ball. Papas Rellenas offers a tantalizing blend of textures and flavors that make them a beloved treat across various cultures. 


A fusion of sweet and savory flavors, wrapped in a delicate pastry or nestled in a plantain cup, Piononos, originating from Spain and cherished in Puerto Rican cuisine, offers a culinary adventure like no other. Dive into this enchanting treat, a delightful blend of tradition and innovation.


Enter Sorullitos, the Puerto Rican corn fritters that steal the show with their crispy exterior and buttery goodness inside. These versatile treats are perfect alongside any meal, adding a touch of tropical flair to your dining experience. 


This side dish is made with tender green bananas marinated in a tantalizing blend of onions, bay leaves, peppercorns, and garlic. Whether enjoyed as a side dish to complement your meal or savored on its own, Escabeche promises to elevate your dining experience with its unique blend of flavors and textures.

Tostones Rellenos

Also known as Stuffed Plantain Cups, Tostones Rellenos are charmingly delightful and packed with a flavorful punch. These crispy plantain cups are typically filled with a variety of savory ingredients such as shredded beef, seasoned ground beef (picadillo), cheese, shrimp, chicken, or even ropa vieja.

Chicharrón de Pollo

Picture this: bite-sized pieces of chicken thighs marinated in a zesty blend of garlic, lime, and rum, coated in flour, and fried to golden perfection. These crispy morsels of Chicharron de Pollo are bursting with Latin spices, offering a crunchy crust that's simply irresistible.


A sandwich that dares to be different—a culinary creation that swaps out bread for crispy, fried green plantains. That's the Jibarito for you! This unique sandwich hails from Puerto Rico but has found its home in Chicago, where it has become a beloved staple.

Camarones al Ajillo

If you're a seafood enthusiast looking to tantalize your taste buds with a dish that's both aromatic and savory, then Camarones al Ajillo is a must-try culinary adventure. This flavorful creation showcases shrimp cooked to perfection with a generous amount of garlic, creating a mouthwatering symphony of flavors that will leave you craving for more.

Yautía Frita

Also known as Taro root or Malanga, Yautía Frita offers a delightful crunch on the outside and a tender, mild flavor inside. These fritters are a beloved dish in many cuisines, from Puerto Rican, to Cuban to Dominican, where they are cherished as appetizers, snacks, or side dishes that never fail to impress.

Conch Salad

Conch salad is a tropical symphony of flavors, combining raw pound conch meat with a colorful medley of onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, citrus juices, and a hint of spice. The result? A refreshing and crunchy salad that's perfect for those sunny days when you're craving a taste of the ocean.

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Puerto Rican cuisine, with its sumptuous sides, has the ability to transform every meal into a celebration of life. Exploring these dishes can be, and should be, an adventure, a culinary exploration that transcends mere eating. It's about discovering a culture, its people, and the stories it tells through its food. Try cooking them in your own kitchen and share the experience with friends and family. The flavors of Puerto Rico are meant to be savored, cherished, and shared. 

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